Insignificant social interactions have an insidious way of shaping one's external persona, especially when they're the only social interactions you have with most people (out of necessity or choice). Granted, this generally means any misconceptions that these interactions would produce are limited to people who you barely know or have reason to care about. Certainly it doesn't matter what they think of you in the long run. But if you're particularly obsessed with your social life, or painfully neurotic, as I am, about offending or slighting ANYone, then this can become an irritating, sometimes incapacitating, fixation.
So in honor of my own experiences and observations of this phenomenon, here's a helpful guide showing how to inadvertently come off as a terrible person despite how nice and considerate you actually are. Especially useful in settings such as the workplace, communal living spaces, or school.
1. Be focused on what you're doing or who you're talking to. If you're very involved with your work, or a very good listener, then you're guaranteed to offend anyone who desperately wants your attention while you're busy caring about something else.
2. Have close friends and not-so-close friends. This seems like a no-brainer, but you'd be amazed how intensely hurt someone can feel that you wouldn't go to their premiere concert because you're at your brother's wedding. I mean, you just met a week ago! How could you forget?!
3. Misjudge someone's proximity to a door or elevator. Heaven forbid you stay there with the door open making them run awkwardly, OR fail to keep it open when they're a block away!
4. Be shy. This is a HUGE one and probably the most powerful weapon in my awkwardness arsenal. If I've ever come off rude or ambivalent to you, this is most probably the reason. If you're shy, you're never quite sure when it's appropriate to talk to someone, what to say, what to do, etc. So if your ex-roommate walks by, or their ex-girlfriend, or their ex-girlfriend's ex-TF who you met once at a party, you desperately avoid eye contact while glancing back and forth to see if they're trying to catch your eye or say hi or smile and oh god, is that even them?! This has been so powerful as to make me some serious enemies AND scare me away from public places like dining halls or streets.
5. Have commitments and a schedule. “Sorry, I'm in a rush, ten minutes late to class but let's catch up!” is practically tantamount to “You're a worthless peon, why in god's name would I make time to say hello to you?”
6. Have 2 or less eyes. Nothing quite like NOT seeing your best friend across the street to the left behind that “No Parking” sign to ruin a relationship.
7. Own a phone. In addition, don't always be able to answer that phone or respond to messages within 2-3 minutes. Sometimes a trivial conversation will have to be cut short for a more important matter. And sometimes a more important matter – or sleep – will prevent responding to a trivial message. This conundrum is no doubt the culmination of the technological destruction of human interactions.
There are plenty others, including: not having photographic memory, having priorities, having a sense of humor or lacking one at key moments, not being able to be genuinely interested in everything, only being able to speak to one person at a time...Countless ways, really. Many overlapping.
I've fallen victim to the asshole-assumption in numerous occasions on account of such interactions, as the accuser and the accused, and I apologize on both fronts. I feel awful whenever I'm conscious enough to realize I've let myself misjudge someone on the basis of these things, but as you could probably tell by now, I'm really good at feeling awful for things. So yeah, be wary, I guess, of looking like or assuming that someone else is A DICK.